Seven Louisiana boating fatalities so far this year are sobering reminders to practice safe boating every day and night on the water.
There were 20 boating-related deaths in 2019.
As I’ve bemoaned the sad numbers so many times before, one death or injury related to a boating mishap is too many. That’s why it’s imperative to remind all boaters, which there are plenty in the Teche Area, to be safe, responsible and knowledgeable while on the water.
The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries echoed that sentiment in the days leading up to Safe Boating Week, which began Saturday and ends Friday. This week signifies the beginning of the spring and summer boating season, according to a spokesman for the state department.
As always, LDWF Enforcement Division agents are scheduled to be out in full force this weekend and this week to conduct boating safety checks and make sure boaters are practicing social distancing during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Phase 1 order that began Friday, people should avoid groups of any size to ensure strict social distancing, including outdoor activities such as boating.
Also, patrols are scheduled to be on the water in an effort to intercede with boaters driving or operating a vessel while intoxicated.
Alcohol use, the state agency said, is one of the leading causes of boating crashes and fatalities on the water. Alcohol consumption impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Penalties for DWI on the water are the same as on the road. Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road loses his or her driver’s license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case.
The LDWF also said Safe Boating Week is a time for all boaters to inspect their vessel(s) to ensure all required safety equipment is aboard and vessels are in good working condition. Also, each vessel should carry enough personal flotation devices for all occupants and a sober operator. Anyone 16 years old or younger must wear a PFD while underway in boats less than 26-foot.
And anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984, is required to successfully pass a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators free boater education course to operate a motorboat with a motor more than 10-horspower. Since the safe boating course’s inception in 2003, more than 118,000 boaters have been certified in Louisiana.
Catching up on some old business, there are new dove hunting dates in 2020-21 for the South Zone following the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission’s approval of Notices of Intent on May 7. The first split will be Sept. 5-16, the second split Oct. 17-Nov. 29 and the third split Dec. 19, 2020-Jan. 21, 2021.
The change was one of two amendments added during the process. The other allows UTVs on LDWF Wildlife Management Area Physically Challenged Hunter Permit trails. ATVs and UTVs can use the trails.
LWFC members voted down an amendment passed earlier that bans the sale of untested deer urine products in the state. However, regulations still are in place that prohibit the possession and use of deer urine products in the state in a concerted effort to prevent chronic wasting disease from entering the Sportsman’s Paradise.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.